Differences Between Ruling and Judgment: Ruling and judgment are two concepts relating to the administration of justice (that is, the judicial setting). It is in the course of administering justice that ruling and judgment may be rendered. The phrase, “judicial setting” means that there has to be two or more parties in dispute before a panel serving as judges. In rendering a ruling or judgment, all sides of the parties must have been accorded the opportunity to be heard and present their case. It is on the basis of their cases so presented that ruling and judgment can be made.
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Meaning of Ruling
Ruling is an order or a decision of a court on a point of law in respect of an issue which arises within the course of or pending the determination of a substantive suit. Generally, when a ruling is given, it does not determine the rights and liabilities of the parties stricto sensu except for instance, such rulings convicting one for contempt of court, custody order, etc. yet, ruling still does not determine the subject matter giving rise to the parties’ presence in court. When the court gives its ruling on a point of law, it thereafter proceeds to the question of the substantive suit.
A court ruling is not directed to the substance of the case and as such, does not affect it, although its implication may put the parties against whom it is ruled in jeopardy. Court’s ruling has an element of finality but only with respect to the particular issue which it disposes. Court’s ruling in respect of a subject is final in the sense that the court cannot reverse its ruling unless in exceptional circumstance if established by way of application.
Court’s ruling can also be appealed against, although leave of court may be required in some cases. A court ruling has the capacity to dismiss a suit. For instance, where the court holds that it has no jurisdiction to determine a suit; and such ruling is final. Court’s ruling does not render the subject matter and the suit res judicata since the substance of the proceeding has not been decided. It is only a court judgment on the substance of a suit that can give rise to res judicata.
However, such ruling cannot be challenged before that court, but this, although similar, does not qualify as res judicata. Where an issue necessitating court’s ruling arises, the court may choose to reserve its ruling on that matter, but the ruling must be rendered before the substantive proceeding can be continued.
It is correct that court’s judgment is the finality of proceedings; however, court’s ruling in some cases can arise and be given even after the final judgment has been rendered. For instance, the issue of jurisdiction (which of course can be raised at anytime even after the judgment), court ruling on contempt of court, custody, enforcement of judgment, and so on. Decisions made by tribunals are also referred to as ruling.
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Instances Where Court Ruling Is Given
1. Issue of Jurisdiction: A decision by the court that it has or has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit before it is not a court judgment; it is rather a ruling. When a court rules that it has no jurisdiction over a matter, the suit is consequently dismissed forthwith for want of jurisdiction.
It the court’s ruling is that it has jurisdiction, hearing of the substantive suit proceeds. The ruling of the court pertaining to its jurisdiction over a case can be subjected to an appeal. When the court strikes out a case for want of jurisdiction, it is a court ruling.
2. Other Preliminary Objections: After parties have filed and exchanged their pleadings, parties can raise preliminary objection on preliminary, substantive and procedural matters which have not been complied with by any of the parties as required by relevant laws. Court’s decision on such preliminary matters constitutes a ruling.
3. Motions and Applications: Certain applications are made to the court by way of motion and application. Motions can be either on notice or by ex-parte. Instances of motions and applications required to be on notice include; motion for joinder of parties, application for extension of time to file pleadings, bail application, etc. for motion exparte; motion for substituted service, garnishee application, interim injunction, application for leave of court to file divorce proceeding within the two years of marriage, anton piller injunction, etc. where the court renders its decision on any of these motions and applications, such amounts to court ruling and not judgment.
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4. Objections to tendering of document: Tendering and admission of documents as exhibit in court is guided by certain rules which are; that the document must be pleaded, the document must be relevant to the fact in issue, and that there must be nothing in the Evidence Act precluding its admissibility. Unbundling these rules, most especially the third rule has broad implications and applications. When the admissibility of a document is objected to pursuant to any of these headings, court’s decision in response to that objection is a court ruling.
5. Objection to certain questions during witness testimony: Where an objection is raised during examination of witness, although court’s decision in this respect is usually in a summary manner and most times not recorded, such decision by the court in that respect is a ruling.
6. Interim Order or Injunction: An interim order or injunction is a court order entered at the beginning or pendency of a suit to preserve and maintain the status quo until the substantive suit is finally disposed of. The decision of the court in response to an application for an interim order is not a judgment, it is rather a ruling.
Meaning of Judgment
A judgment is the final order of a court in respect of the substance of a suit. Court judgment brings the suit to an end, having determined the rights and liabilities of the parties involved. Court judgment is clothed in the garb of finality with the exception of the right of an appeal.
Except in cases of review based on certain prescribed cases, a court judgment cannot be questioned before the court that rendered the judgment. A court judgment on the substance of a suit clearly gives rise to res judicata as long as the elements constituting res judicata are present. Judgment therefore relates only to a court decision disposing of the substance of the suit.
The similarity between ruling and judgment includes that both are decisions made by the court or a tribunal in the course of determining parties’ right and liabilities. Both judgment and ruling actually disposes of issues. The decisions forming court’s ruling and judgment can be appealed against. Also, both court ruling and judgment are capable of being enforced.
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Differences Between ruling and Judgment
1. A judgment is the final decision of the court which disposes the substance of the suit, whereas ruling is the final decision of the court with respect to an interlocutory matter which arises from and within the proceedings of the substantive suit.
2. A judgment provides the answer to the ultimate question and the reason why the parties are in court at the very first instance, whereas a ruling merely disposes of an interlocutory matter.
3. For every suit brought before the court, there is only one judgment to be rendered by the court on the substance of the suit. On the other hand, so may issues may arise within the proceeding of a substantive suit. Therefore, there can be more than one ruling as necessitated by the number of interlocutory matters arising from the suit.
4. When a court ruling is given per incuriam, it is possible for such erroneous ruling to affect the justifiability of the court’s judgment in that suit, but this is not necessarily the case. On the other hand, an erroneous judgment is an erroneous judgment. Therefore, where the court renders an erroneous decision on the substance of the suit, it is simply what it is and there is no chance for its justifiability.
5. A court judgment is what brings the suit to an end. The phrase, “There must be an end to litigation” is brought into practicality by a court judgment. On the other hand, a court ruling does not necessarily bring the suit to an end except where for instance; the court rules that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
6. Except where there is a retrial order, there cannot be subsequent judgment by tea me court after one judgment has been give. On the other hand, there can be subsequent court rulings even after the final judgment has been given.
An instance of this is where the court makes an order pursuant to the judgment and the party against whom the order was made flaunts the order. Here, subsequent application can be brought for contempt of court, and when the court renders a decision in respect of the contempt application, such decision is a ruling.
Other instances are; an application for garnishee order after the judgment has been given, application for grant of custody of the children of the marriage in a matrimonial cause. Such application can be brought after final judgment has been given, and a decision made by the court based on that is a ruling.
A judgment is given in respect of the substantive issue which has brought the parties to court for determination. Ruling refers to matters which spring up in furtherance of the proceedings in the substantive suit. Court ruling is necessary for attaining the end of litigation whereas judgment brings litigation in respect of a particular suit to an end. Both are clearly different concepts and applications but in one way and the other, they complement.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.